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The War On Coal [Workers]

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As Krugman notes, it already happened,  and workers lost in a rout:

Consider, in particular, the much-hyped “war on coal.” It’s true that getting serious about global warming means, above all, cutting back on (and eventually eliminating) coal-fired power, which would hurt regions of the country that depend on coal-mining jobs. What’s rarely pointed out is how few such jobs still exist.

Once upon a time King Coal was indeed a major employer: At the end of the 1970s there were more than 250,000 coal miners in America. Since then, however, coal employment has fallen by two-thirds, not because output is down — it’s up, substantially — but because most coal now comes from strip mines that require very few workers. At this point, coal mining accounts for only one-sixteenth of 1 percent of overall U.S. employment; shutting down the whole industry would eliminate fewer jobs than America lost in an average week during the Great Recession of 2007-9.

Or put it this way: The real war on coal, or at least on coal workers, took place a generation ago, waged not by liberal environmentalists but by the coal industry itself. And coal workers lost.

Climate change trooferism isn’t about protecting jobs.

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  • Gareth Wilson

    So, do you want more or fewer people working as coal miners, and more or less coal being burnt?

    • I’d like to see fewer jobs blowing up mountains and fewer stories about people dying in coal mines.

      • Gareth Wilson

        Sounds good. The simplest way to get there is to burn less coal, and employ fewer miners.

        • cpinva

          “The simplest way to get there is to burn less coal, and employ fewer miners.”

          if you were paying attention, you’d have noticed that the “employ fewer miners” part has already pretty much been accomplished, by the industry itself. it’s the “burn less coal” part that’s still on the table. and there is no such thing as “clean coal”, the only way to have that is to have no coal.

          the museum of science & industry in Chicago has an entire section dedicated to coal mining. you access it like a miner would, going down in a mine elevator. from there, the exhibits take you through the history of coal extraction in the US, up to the present. I left convinced that, if they really wanted to, the industry could probably eliminate miners completely from the process, and only the miners and their families would know about it, that’s just how mechanically efficient the business has become.

          • Gareth Wilson

            So if they did completely eliminate miners, would that be good or bad?

        • khead

          I suggest a coal stove and chute for every house. For the miners.

          • cpinva

            I’ve always wanted to live in Dickens’ London.

            • rea

              Believe me, you didn’t.

    • Isn’t the correct answer a vigorous economic plan to bring jobs to Appalachia?

      • NonyNony

        Yes. This is so obvious that nobody ever sees it.

      • Richard Gadsden

        Or a vigorous plan to move people out of Appalachia.

        • Why should people be forced to leave their homes?

        • Linnaeus

          Perhaps you meant that tongue-in-cheek, but I would imagine that would be even harder politically (not to mention logistically) than an economic plan for the region.

        • njorl

          I think a non-vigorous plan (via attrition over a generation or two) to lower the population level of Appalachia would be fine. There’s nothing wrong with allowing inhabited land to be recaptured by the natural habitat. Places which are economically or environmentally less well-suited to human occupancy should be allowed revert though attrition. Maybe it makes sense for people to live there, maybe it doesn’t.

          We need to learn how to accomplish this gracefully, because it is going to have to happen to significant swaths of the country in the next century due to climate change and the loss of water resources. California and Texas can’t be our most populous states in 100 years.

          • Appalachia is extremely well-suited for occupancy by humans who live in extended family groups, travel to a town with a grocery and a doctor a couple of times a month, and use mules to plow.

            My grandma, who is 93, can describe what it was like to live in those circumstances 85 years ago. My kid thinks it sounds Amish. And it may be the future lifestyle that best uses that part of North America if human use is even a priority.

            Her papa made shine and folks came from across the hill of a Saturday evening, to sip his whiskey and listen to him play the fiddle. And when Peabody men came to survey his 45 acres, he ran them off with his shotgun, then hitched the wagon & went to town to get his papers proving he bought the mineral rights.

            Of his 64 great-grandchildren, 6 of us are raising our own families in the mountains. Because the environment simply won’t support that many people, and 0 of us are employed by coal mining.

            Ending mining for coal in Appalachia could cost dozens of families their livelihoods, because there aren’t quite enough openings for corrections officers.

          • UserGoogol

            The problem with a non-vigorous plan is that the people who stay aren’t just the people who want to stay, but the people who can’t leave. Nobody should be forced to live in West Virginia.

      • Ns

        Nobody has cared about Appalachian poverty since the days of lbj, because the Democratic Party, the only powerful political force in our country the cares about poverty, doesn’t care. All you have to do is read t.n. Coates on the subject to see the mainstream thinking of the party, that white poverty doesn’t count as much black poverty.

        • toberdog

          I’m sure TNC would be surprised to hear that he’s being taken as the embodiment of “mainstream thinking of the party” – whatever that means.

        • witless chum

          Also, bullshit that TNC or anyone else thinks that white poverty counts less than black poverty.

          • Ns

            It’s his explicit position that relieving black poverty is a more pressing moral issue for the country than relieving poverty in general. I think it’s a pretty dubious position, but there it is.

            • solidcitizen

              Links to this explicit position?

            • Texas Board of Education

              No. It’s his explicit position that black poverty is intentional, and that black folks should be compensated for being intentionally defrauded and ripped off.

              • MAJeff

                Sorry. Too coherent for the actual TX Board of Education.

                • Ahuitzotl

                  plus polysyllabic

            • witless chum

              Lies is a very good Violent Femmes song, but a poor way for you to go around living your life. In no world has Coates ever advocated doing nothing about white, Latino, Asian, Native or anyone else’s. If you think he did, quote it. Arguing for reparations is simply that, the alternative is not helping Appalachia. The alternative is no reparations.

        • Bloix

          Actually the federal government made huge investments in W Va infrastructure and jobs. The late Senator Robert Byrd was a master of earmarking a/k/a pork barrel spending:

          “After becoming chair of the Appropriations Committee in 1989, Byrd set a goal securing a total of $1 billion for public works in the state. He passed that mark in 1991, and funds for highways, dams, educational institutions and federal agency offices flowed unabated over the course of his membership.”

      • FlipYrWhig

        Jobs doing what? I’m not being sarcastic, I seriously want to know. Extracting resources is pretty much the only game in town, isn’t it?

        • joe from Lowell

          Installing and maintaining wind turbines on those mountains.

        • mud man

          There used to be a lot of small farming in there, but a lot of good land is going to need to rest for at least a few thousand years to mellow out the spoil piles and so on.

          Also, a lot of good music came down from those hollows. Not everybody needs a life style involving BMWs.

          • postmodulator

            A lot of that soil is too rocky for agriculture, right? There are places around where I used to live where the only viable agribusinesses were beef cattle and marijuana. (And I don’t quite understand why beef cattle. Marijuana I get, there’s a reason they call it “weed.”)

            • postmodulator

              Whoa shit, I think I just solved Appalachia’s employment problem. Move over, Humboldt County.

              • BigHank53

                A lot of Appalachia used to survive on the old tobacco subsidies, which made small plots of land viable. I can see why we wanted to get the federal government out of the tobacco business, but guess what? Tobacco subsidies are back, and now they’re going straight to big corporate growers. Socialism is fine if you’re already rich.

                Beef cattle can graze on land that’s too dry or rocky or steep for planting, and the eastern ecosystem isn’t anywhere as prone to erosion & overgrazing as the western US.

                • postmodulator

                  Thanks, I’d been idly wondering that about the beef cattle for twenty years and never got around to looking it up.

              • delurking

                Goats. Grapes. Tourists. There are plenty of things you can farm up here, if we stop blowing the tops off the mountains.

                It would require some investment in the infrastructure, which is the other problem — very little money has ever been put into the people or the roads or other public goods.

            • mud man

              There’s the rocky tops (eg, John Denver), and there’s the good bottom land, or used to be. Talking horticulture, not cash-crop agriculture.

              … Also could mention selling cane chairs to the tourists. In that vein, here on the southern Oregon coast we’ve got nice forests (still some left), beaches, dunes, and you can hardly drive on 101 in the summertime, but people keep talking about developing INDUSTRY out here. WTF?

              • BigHank53

                Tourism jobs tend to be seasonal, part-time, and benefit-free.

        • witless chum

          Less mining would probably equal more tourism. Once the trees grow over the industrial wasteland, it looks just like pretty wilderness that people like to look at. This took about 60-70 years in the U.P. of Michigan, but you could probably accelerate it.

        • JL

          It was very deliberately made the only game by the mining companies. I say put some factories to make parts for solar panels or wind turbines there. The government could either provide economic incentives to do so, or put in regulations around this as part of a climate/clean energy package. Also, if we decide that algae-based biofuels are a good idea, algae has the advantage of being able to grow a lot of places where you couldn’t really grow crops.

          Marijuana is already quite a large cash crop in Kentucky* and I presume legalization would help this further, but I’m not sure how much of that is specifically Appalachia.

          *I have a teenage memory of my mom letting me skip school to go watch the Supreme Court of Kentucky hear Woody Harrelson’s hemp-growing case.

        • Anonymous

          I am sure that it will warm the hearts of LGM commenters to learn that McDowell Co has softened the economic blow by welcoming the prison industry.

        • khead

          I added the prison comment. Forgot to sign in. Heh.

  • jkay

    But that’s good for workers – coal mining, remember’s one of the worst kinds of jobs. And part of the story is always better tech. The only worse industry is probably farming, because it pays NOTHING for similar absurd conditions and has higher failure risks.

    I’m not saying they shoulda partied when they were laid off, just that most are better off today, especially healthier. Not all, just most, of course.

    I should point out that Obama had the courage to sacrifice WVA for this, which bas traditionally voted Dem.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      as I understand Scott’s point, it isn’t about the coal miners themselves, it’s the industry’s using the remaining few to blackmail- so to speak- the general public into not supporting the ‘war on coal’, so-called

      • cpinva

        that was my take on it as well.

      • Nichole

        That surely is the way his post reads.

    • randomworker

      Farming pays nothing? I have to call bs on that.

      • It only pays “nothing” to agricultural laborers, who in many states are exempt from minimum wage laws, and to the few remaining family farms which find themselves squeezed from every direction by factory farms, giant feedlots and agribusiness giants like Monsanto and ADM.

    • RawlsRorty

      I approve of Obama’s EPA rules and abhor coal mining. But let’s not get carried away with accolades here. There was no way in hell Barack Hussein Obama was ever going to win West Virginia. Abandoning it took no courage at all.

      • postmodulator

        If I recall correctly, the West Virginia Democratic primary broke something like 70-30 for Hillary — and that was at a point when Obama was almost the presumptive nominee. West Virginians, as a group, are shockingly racist, racist to the point where other racists are somewhat taken aback.

        (One of the annoying things about online comment sections is that if you mention the racism of the South, someone will come along and say #NotAllSoutherners. So let me make clear that I’m not saying this from some ivory tower Yankee perspective; I lived in Appalachia for two years, and I’m only about two hours’ drive away from it as I type this.)

        • If I recall correctly, the West Virginia Democratic primary broke something like 70-30 for Hillary — and that was at a point when Obama was almost the presumptive nominee.

          Do you really think Manchin is going to be any better a Democrat if Hillary becomes President? I bet not.

          • TrexPushups

            No but he is still better than any other plausible replacement senator from that state as far as I can tell.

          • FlipYrWhig

            I wouldn’t be shocked if Manchin ended up Hillary’s running mate.

            • toberdog

              Al Franken for VEEP!

        • Guggenheim Swirly

          One of the annoying things about online comment sections is that if you mention the racism of the South, someone will come along and say #NotAllSoutherners

          Interesting. Because to me, one of the more annoying things about online comment sections are the jackasses who make sweeping and dismissive generalizations of the beliefs / attitudes / worthiness as human beings of all the people living in large sections of the country. Whether that’s West Virginia, Texas or Florida or the south in general, it happens way too fucking much and it’s bullshit, no matter how hard you try to equate it to the “not all men” phenomenon.

          • postmodulator

            An hour and twenty-six minutes. Did anyone have an hour and twenty-six minutes in the pool?

            • Guggenheim Swirly

              Yes, by all means, do deflect rather than examine your own actions.

              • Guggenheim Swirly

                More directly to the point, I am sorry that the fact that many of us are not at all amused by the casual and persistent denigration of southerners as worthwhile human beings that is all too common in the comment sections of liberal blogs, and are willing to speak up about it. I certainly didn’t mean to impinge on your unearned sense of superiority fun.

                • Guggenheim Swirly

                  Gah, need edit button.

                • postmodulator

                  casual and persistent denigration of southerners as worthwhile human beings

                  See, here’s the problem: I didn’t do any of that. My point was about racism impacting on local politics, which is totally a real thing. (Or isn’t it? Maybe all those West Virginia primary voters bought Hillary’s argument that she was the only one ready for the 4 am phone call.)

                • elm

                  Yeah, Amanda will comment here, especially on articles that link to her but also more generally. I get the impression that she doesn’t follow LG&M, but follows blogs that link to LG&M, and will comment here when she follows a link and has something to say.

                  Atrios seems to comment here in similar ways and with similar frequency.

                • elm

                  Wow, totally not in the right place. Read the subthread below so it doesn’t look like random Amanda-obsession,

              • Guggenheim Swirly

                I also apologize for not realizing that because “not all men” is a thing, that means that anyone objecting to being caught up in unfair sweeping generalizations really has nothing to complain about, because #NotAllMen.

              • postmodulator

                I’m totally comfortable with my actions. I’ve thought about them a long time. Obviously I’m aware that not everyone in the Deep South or Appalachia or Boston or Chicago is horrifyingly bigoted. (List not inclusive.)

                But I get really sick of not being able to say “there’s enough racism in place X to affect local politics” without some assclown popping up to say “Nuh uh! I live here and I’ve totally read Native Son. Twice!” You are, in my opinion, trying to fix entirely the wrong problem.

                (And for what it’s worth, you’re not alone. Amanda Marcotte, possessor of a first-rate mind and a writer of whom I am almost worshipful, has an enormous — one might almost say Texas-sized — blind spot along the lines of “Don’t lump all us Texans together!” Although you hear that less from her since she moved to Brooklyn.)

                • JL

                  It is interesting to me that she would do that less since she moved to Brooklyn. I didn’t even care until I moved out of the South to the Northeast to attend college and found people sneering about where I was from frequently, often in extremely classist ways.

                  Your “There is enough racism in X to affect local politics” doesn’t bother me, but that is also not the average liberal commentary, especially blog comment section commentary, on the South or Southern Appalachia.

                • postmodulator

                  Well, what are you seeing and where? Because I simply don’t run into all that much, say, eliminationist rhetoric about the South from liberals.

                  I suppose you see some mentions of trailer parks and poor white trash, now that I think about it. It’s possible I’m not hanging out in the right(wrong) comment sections.

                  If Marcotte is encountering East Coast snobbery from idiot rich people, I suspect she’s not writing about it because she doesn’t give a shit. (She’s commented here before, hasn’t she? I keep expecting her to emerge and tell me I know nothing of her work.)

                • Lee Rudolph

                  She’s commented here before, hasn’t she?

                  I’ve only been reading LGM for about a year and a half, but I think I’d remember seeing her if I had, and I don’t.

                • Linnaeus

                  Amanda Marcotte has commented here before. She doesn’t do it frequently, but I know she has at least a few times in the 7 or so years (maybe more, I forget) I’ve been reading this blog.

                • Nichole

                  Obviously I’m aware that not everyone in the Deep South or Appalachia or Boston or Chicago is horrifyingly bigoted. (List not inclusive.)

                  Yeah, I know whatcha mean. Except for three years in Europe I’d lived in Tennessee and Alabama my whole life, until moving to NJ in 2001.

                  Imagine my shock to believe I was moving to a racial paradise, only to discover the most segregated place I’ve ever lived in! It was truly an eye-opener.

                  The land of township-based government seems to be the easiest option to enforce school segregation and neighborhood seg as well. Just local.

                  So, you’re definitely correct , not everyone in NJ’s townships are horribly bigoted. They truly don’t have to be until they go to NJ cities.

                • @postmodulator

                  Do the recurring invocations of Sherman whenever the topic of the South comes up around here count as eliminationist rhetoric?

        • Pohranicni Straze

          So… are you talking about the South, or are you talking about West Virginia? I’m pretty sure I recall them deciding not to be part of the South a while back.

          • joe from Lowell

            Things have changed since then.

            Once upon a time, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, DC were considered the South.

            • postmodulator

              Yes, that part gets weird, doesn’t it? You see a lot of Battle Flag bumper stickers and whatnot in West Virginia (as well as in Akron, Ohio, ground zero of the West Virginia diaspora in the middle of the 20th century). Kind of a head-scratcher if you know the history.

              • FlipYrWhig

                Not if you know the second life of the rebel flag as an insignia for segregation.

                • postmodulator

                  Well, yes, of course, it’s just strange. I mean, the Guy Fawkes mask as an anarchist symbol is strange too. I always want to ask those people if they really are willing to be tortured to death to prove their devotion to the Pope. People do weird stuff.

                • PSP

                  Segregation is too simplistic an explanation. It utterly fails to explain the appearance of the treason in defense of slavery flag in rural Maine, where there are no African Americans to segregate.

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                may have mentioned this here before, but most all the small rural cemeteries around here have several union veterans buried in them- yet somewhere nearby right now someone is driving a car or truck or wearing a t shirt with the stars and bars on it

                memory, as well as life itself, plays the damnedest tricks

                • Mondegreen

                  It’s probably not the Stars and Bars. That’s a different flag. It’s the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.

                  (no love for either; love of accuracy)

              • ericblair

                Those who do not remember the past are condemned to make shit up that suits their politics. And give historians blood pressure problems.

          • toberdog

            If you think that West Virginia’s decision to separate from Virginia was totally about, “Hey, we’re not racists like they are” then you need to read up on the history.

            • postmodulator

              In fairness, I think he was mostly taking issue with the way my comment makes it sound like “West Virginia” is part monolithically of “the South.” Which arguably it’s not. If you define the South as “the old Confederacy,” which plenty of people do, obviously it’s not.

        • JL

          I think equating this to the #NotAllMen phenomenon fails because men are a dominant group, while a large amount (not all, so to speak) of liberal blog comment shitting on Southerners is about the upper classes shitting on the perceived lower classes. “Targets of classism” does not count as a dominant group.

          • postmodulator

            That is a cogent point. I think where the analogy does hold up is that my takeaway from #NotAllMen is “Bros, your priorities are fucked.”

            I think I kind of get the deflecting impulse that causes all the problems. As a guy, you hear discussions of male privilege and the patriarchy, and you feel kind of bad. (And it does feel bad.) So you feel like you have to throw in your two cents’ worth just to say, hey, I’m okay, I’m not like those bad men. (I hope that I mostly successfully avoid this impulse, but it’s not really for me to judge.)

            What I get from #NotAllMen is “We’re sorry your feelings got hurt but we’re working on actual problems here.” So, I think the analogy works there, because that’s what bothers me about online discussions of regional racism. So I could qualify every statement that I make about regional racism by saying yes, there’s racism everywhere, yes, the North too, yes, Chicago is segregated to a simply amazing degree, yes, there are good people in the South, yes, yes, yes…but I’m tired of doing that. Everyone knows all that stuff. (Or everyone I’d have a discussion with.)

            Your point about the power differential, however, has merit. For that reason I suppose I wouldn’t try to start a #NotAllSoutherners trend on Twitter. (It’s also a smaller problem.)

          • Just Dropping By

            So it’s fair to make sweeping generalizations about a “dominant group”? Great insight into your thinking there.

            • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks

              I am playing a sad, sad tune on the world’s smallest violin for you.

        • jkay

          BUT, postmodulator, what you and the too many in liberal-land whom agree with you WAS WRONG stereotyping, as we said. So genius, why did worse racist Texas vote for the big ‘O’ in our primary? But I forgot I don’t exist, because I’m an unracist Texan. More food for your thought – there was a Pennsylvanian in ’08 said “I’m voting for the nigger.”

      • Hogan

        West Virginia is not the only coal state.

  • Derelict

    Mountain-top removal apparently also removes the miners from the equation.

    I sometimes wonder if the next dominant species will look back on the reign of the humans and wonder how we managed to fuck ourselves over so badly. Perhaps they will look at the election of Reagan and his very public repudiation of renewable energy (from his removal of the solar panels on the White House to his refusal to fund DOE research efforts) and mark that as the beginning of the end.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      “the next dominant species”

      do you think the cockroaches will be able to understand what Keith Richards is saying?

      • toberdog

        Most of us can’t; why should we expect more out of the roaches?

  • tt

    I think Krugman is correct that the power of coal as vested interest opposed to sensible climate policy is overstated. But what about the petroleum industry? It is wealthier, more powerful, and employs more people, and it has an interest in standing with coal to oppose anti-climate change regulation.

    • Sockie the Sock Puppet

      Well, one part of the petroleum industry — the frackers — is going to be dancing on the grave of King Coal, at least in the short term. Any move away from coal in the next decade will by necessity be a move toward natural gas.

      And the longer term? Hell, if people were interested in the longer term, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

      • joe from Lowell

        In the longer term, the fossil fuel industry as a whole will be weaker without a coal industry.

        • Sockie the Sock Puppet

          Perhaps. But it may also play out that with the fossil energy revenue stream that would have gone to King Coal going instead to Emperor Oil and Czar Gas, the surviving companies are in a much more dominant position. That calculus makes particular sense if you’re skeptical that non-carbon alternatives such as solar and advanced nuclear can ramp up on a one-to-two decade time scale.

          Strengthened fuel economy standards will (with any luck) push down oil consumption, though it’s not going to eliminate it over any financially relevant horizon. Getting gas to take over for coal can make up for the reduced consumption of oil for transportation, and maybe is even a brighter medium-term option anyway.

      • tt

        Well, one part of the petroleum industry — the frackers — is going to be dancing on the grave of King Coal, at least in the short term. Any move away from coal in the next decade will by necessity be a move toward natural gas.

        That’s a good point, but I’m not sure the incentive of frackers to weaken coal as a competitor is stronger than their incentive to support an anti-regulation coalition.

      • Area Man

        Actually, solar is growing at an astronomical rate (though starting from a tiny beginning). For the past several years, annual growth has been in the 40-80% range, meaning that we’re roughly doubling installed capacity every 18 months or so. This year is on track to do it again. Anything that keeps growing at that rate will soon take over the universe.

        I imagine that the growth curve will eventually turn linear rather than exponential, but I wouldn’t bet against solar being the dominant energy source in a decade or two. And I’m pretty sure that the fossil fuel concerns have discounted this possibility (believing their own propaganda that renewables are impractical) so they’re going to be caught mostly unaware. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch.

        • njorl

          I would bet my life savings in a heartbeat that solar power will not be the dominant energy source in a decade or two.

          • Area Man

            Based on what?

            • njorl

              Based on the virtual non-existance of solar power in the US, and the extremely high cost of the energy produced. Doubling almost nothing is easy to do by doubling subsidies. To capture a meaningful amount of the electricity market, let alone a meaningful amount of the total energy market, solar would have to displace energy sources which have already spent capital outlays on expensive infrastructure. We’re not going to subsidize that.

              In 10 years nuclear, coal and gas will still be generating more electricity than solar just from the plants that already exist today.

              • Area Man

                Based on the virtual non-existance of solar power in the US, and the extremely high cost of the energy produced.

                So, based on ignorance.

  • Richard Gadsden

    Does America have a left-wing romanticisation of coal mining like the UK does?

    • joe from Lowell

      Not really.

      • postmodulator

        Well, Matewan. “16 Tons.” Romanticization isn’t really the right word. If you’re asking if the Ramones would have served cake to the children of striking West Virginia coal miners, then no.

        • TribalistMeathead

          The aforementioned coal mining exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and possibly Coal Miner’s Daughter.

          I think it’s more of a left-wing romanticization of all blue collar labor, really.

          • Linnaeus

            We need to unpack the term “romanticization”, though. Otherwise the term becomes so broad as to encompass any historical depiction or cultural expression related to blue-collar labor.

            • postmodulator

              I’d have a hard time defining romanticization. It feels more like one of those things where you know it when you see it.

        • joe from Lowell

          In the UK, such sentiments towards coal miners was a notable force in politics and culture.

          In the US, sure, you can find some examples of that sentiment, but not to any significant degree.

        • Lee Rudolph

          I don’t think “16 Tons” was written or (originally, at least) performed by someone who can plausibly be called “left-wing”.

          • postmodulator

            Hard to say. I’d never given much thought to Merle Travis’ politics, and after Googling a bit, I still don’t know anything about them. But the lyrics strike me as pro-labor.

    • J

      I confess to having experienced a twinge of this feeling. It is also hard not to be awed by the world that coal built, so so speak: the railroads, steamships, the dark satanic mills whose ruins were everywhere as one was growing up. Cf. the vogue for steampunk. There is something magnificent and awful about it.

    • JL

      Not that I’ve noticed. It’s associated with parts of the country that are poor and conservative and often targets of mockery for social liberals. And since relatively few socialists, anarchists, etc, live even near those areas (though there are definitely some!), there’s a bit of an out of sight, out of mind issue.

      • Hogan

        Not all social liberals!

        Sorry–it just slipped out.

        • Nichole

          +1

  • Jackdaw

    Actually environmentalists were indirectly responsible in one way–the passage of the Clean Air Act led utilities to seek out cleaner (relatively speaking) coal with a lower sulfur content, which is what drove the shift to the highly mechanized western surface mines of the Powder River Basin (that happen to employ far fewer workers).

  • Yankee Bastard

    Krugman is, hands down, the best shill for President Obama. He only mentions the mining jobs as if nothing else will be impacted. The multiplier for jobs that are dependent on coal is high.

    Hey, but that’s OK because we’re talking about Kentucky, West Virginia and other states we hate.

    • njorl

      We invented the global warming hoax just to make it easier to torment them. We’re secretly bombarding the Earth with comets just to raise the sea level.

      This is only fair, because the people from coal producing states invented the steam ship exclusively out of hatred for the states involved in the sail-making industry.

    • MAJeff

      Still pissed about 1865, Jenny?

    • Area Man

      The multiplier for jobs that are dependent on coal is high.

      Why would that be? Coal miners and power plant workers don’t make enough money to employ lots of other people.

      Total coal industry jobs are 174,000, or about 0.12% of the workforce. This is fewer than then number of job gained or lost in any given month nationwide. You would need a massive multiplier to even notice the coal industry disappearing, even if you shut down the whole thing at once and ignored increased hiring by the rest of the energy sector.

      • postmodulator

        Possibly Jenny refers here to the medical infrastructure throughout Appalachia that treats miners dying of black lung. Those are “jobs that depend on coal.”

        • witless chum

          Industry PR shill is a job! Lobbyist is a job! Senator from West Virginia is a job!

          See, the coal industry supports all sorts of jobs.

          And what about all those jobs created when dump vast amounts of chemicals and/or mining byprodudcts into the water ways?

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